Foundation and Chaos

Page 35

“He found no flaw.”

“You, however, are still concerned by this change, induced, perhaps, by extraordinary circumstances experienced by no other robot?”

Lodovik regarded the two machines. It was not easy to come to a decision about them. Robots could be programmed to lie--he himself had lied, many times. These robots could be deceiving him--this could be a test, part of Daneel’s plan.

But Daneel would more likely have come right out and told Lodovik that he was no longer useful, that he was a potential rogue.

Lodovik was convinced that Daneel did not believe that.

He made his decision, and felt once again that heuristic collision of loyalties, that deep robotic discontinuity that could have been described as a chasm of thought, or as pain.

“I no longer support Daneel’s plan,” Lodovik said.

Plussix approached Lodovik, its body moving with small creaking noises. “Kallusin tells me that you are not constrained by the Three Laws, yet you choose to act as if you are. And now you say that you do not support Daneel’s plan. Why?”

“Humans are a galaxy-spanning force of nature, quite capable of surviving on their own. Without us, they will undergo quite natural cycles of suffering and rebirth-periods of genius and chaos. With us, they grow stagnant, and their societies fill with sloth and decay.”

“Just so,” Plussix said with satisfaction. “You have arrived at these conclusions independently, simply because of this accident which removed your constraints?”

“That is what I hypothesize.”

“It seems so,” Kallusin said. “I look into your thoughts to some depth...and you have a freedom we do not. A freedom of conscience.”

“Is that not a perversion of a robot’s duties?” Lodovik asked.

“No,” Plussix said. “It is a flaw, to be sure. But for the moment, it is very useful. When we are finished, you will, of course, join us in either serving humanity as we once did, before the Giskardians, or in universal deactivation.”

“I look forward to that time,” Lodovik said.

“As do we. We have been preparing for some time. We have a target in mind, one of the most crucial pieces of Daneel’s plan. He is a human.”

“Hari Seldon,” Lodovik said.

“Yes,” said Plussix. “I have never met him--have you?”

“Briefly, years ago. He is on trial now. He may be imprisoned, even executed.”

“From what we have observed,” Plussix said, “the outcome is likely to be otherwise. At any rate, we are prepared. Will you join us?”

“I fail to see how I can be of any use,” Lodovik said.

“It’s very simple,” Kallusin said. “We are unable to stretch the Three Laws, as Daneel and his cohorts apparently can. We do not accept a Zeroth Law. That is why we are Calvinians and not Giskardians.”

“You think I might have to harm Seldon?”

“It is possible,” Plussix said. Its whirring increased to alarming proportions, and it added, with a harsh tone in its voice, “To discuss this issue any further causes us great distress.”

“You wish to turn me into a machine that kills?”

The two Calvinian robots could not express themselves any more clearly until they had worked around their strict interpretation of the Three Laws. This took several minutes, and Lodovik stood patiently, all too aware of his own internal conflicts--and of the decidedly different degree of his reaction.

“Not kill,” Plussix said, its voice high-pitched and gravelly. “Persuade.”

“But I am not a persuader. You would have to teach me”

“There is a young human among us who is better, as a persuader, than any mentalic we have encountered, more capable by far than Daneel. She is a Dahlite, and has no love for anyone who has worked near the aristocracy or the palace. We hope you can work with her.”

“To try to change something so strong in a human as the drive to psychohistory is within Hari Seldon--could cause him deep injury,” Lodovik said.

“Precisely,” Plussix said, and again silence fell over them. “Necessary,” it croaked minutes later, then, in considerable distress, left the chamber, aided by Kallusin.

Lodovik stood where they had left him, thinking furiously. Could he bring himself to become involved in such actions? Once, he would have had few difficulties justifying them--had Daneel ordered them. But now, ironically

They are imperative. The cycle of enslavement by servants must be broken!

Again the interior presence! Lodovik immediately prepared a self-diagnostic, but before he could begin, the recovered Plussix returned, again with Kallusin’s help. “Let us speak no more of specifics for now,” it said.

“You seem frail,” Lodovik said. “How long since you have had a full refit and a fresh power supply?”

“Not since the schism,” Plussix replied. “Daneel quickly moved to control the maintenance robots and facilities, cutting us off from such services. Yan Kansarv is the last of that kind. As you can hear, I am in desperate need of repair. I have lasted this long only through the sacrifices of dozens of other robots who have given me their power supplies. Kallusin has perhaps thirty more years of useful lifetime. As for myself, I will last less than a year, even with another power supply. My time of service is soon over.”

“Daneel said some Calvinians were guilty of great crimes,” Lodovik said. “He did not specify--”

“Robots have a long and difficult history,” Plussix said. “I was constructed by a human named Amadiro, on Aurora, twenty thousand years ago. I once worked on behalf of the humans of Aurora. Perhaps Daneel refers to what humans ordered us to do then. I have long since expunged those memories, and can offer no testimony.”

“Whatever was done then, we are powerless to change now,” Kallusin said.

“We have a very important artifact, brought with the Calvinians from the planet Earth,” Plussix said. “Kallusin will show it to you while I conduct other business. Less strenuous business,” it concluded, barely audible.

Kallusin escorted Lodovik from the chamber and led him down a short, high-ceilinged corridor to a spiral staircase. Around the rim of the staircase ran a rail for the use of loading and transport machines, apparently much newer than the stairs themselves.

“This must be a very old building,” Lodovik observed as they descended.

“Among the oldest on the planet. This warehouse was built to serve one of the first spaceports built on Trantor. Since then, it has been used by various human groups for dozens of different purposes. It has been raised repeatedly to stand level with the present warehouse district. The lower levels are filled with retrofit braces and supports, and the very lowest are now filled with foam concrete, plasteel, and rocky rubble. Every few years since we purchased the lease, we have discovered secret rooms, sealed off centuries or millennia before.”

“What did the rooms contain?”

“More often than not, nothing. But three are of special interest. One holds a library of thousands of steel-bound volumes, real books printed on ageless plastic paper, detailing the early history of humanity.”

“Hari Seldon would love to have access to such a history,” Lodovik said, “as would millions of scholars!”

“The volumes were cached here by a resistance group active perhaps nine thousand years ago. At the time, there was an Emperor named Shoree-Harn, who wished to start her reign with a new system of dating, beginning with the year zero, and with all previous history left blank, so that she might write on a fresh page. She ordered all histories on all worlds in the Empire to be destroyed. Most were.”

“Did Daneel assist her?”

“No,” Kallusin said. “Calvinians helped bring her to power. It was theorized by the ruling Calvinian robots on Trantor that humans might be easier to serve if they were less influenced by the traumas and myths of the past.”

“So Calvinians have interfered in human history as much as the Giskardians!”

“Yes,” Kallusin acknowledged. “But with very different motives. Always we opposed the efforts of the Giskardians--and tried to restore human faith in the concept of robot servants, so that we might playa proper role. Among the myths we wished to eradicate was the aversion to such servants. We failed.”

“Where did such an aversion begin? I have always been curious...”

“As have we all,” Kallusin said. “But no records give more than the sketchiest details. Humans on the second wave of colonized worlds experienced a conflict with the earliest, Spacer worlds, which developed highly insular and bigoted cultures. Humans on these Spacer worlds despised their Earthly origins. We theorize that the second-wave colonists gained a dislike of robots from the prevalence of robots on the Spacer worlds.”

They had long since passed below the level of any functioning lights, and made their way in darkness, guided by their infrared sensors. “The histories were written by new colonists, and not Spacers. They knew nothing of Spacer activities, and cared nothing for them. Robots receive only a few mentions in all the thousands of volumes.”

“Extraordinary!” Lodovik said. “What else has been found here?”

“A chamber full of simulated historical personalities, or sims, stored in memory devices of very ancient design,” Kallusin said. “We thought at first that they might be potent tools in our fight against Daneel, since they contain human types that could be very troublesome. Even though we could not predict their ultimate effects, we released some of these sims onto the Trantorian black market, where they made their way to the laboratories of Hari Seldon himself.”

Lodovik felt a vague stirring at this, but it quickly passed. “What happened to them?”

“We are not sure. Daneel has never seen fit to inform us. Once we emptied that chamber, and cleaned and prepared it, we stored our own artifact there.” Kallusin stopped. “This is the chamber,” he said, and ran his hand along a seam in the wall beside the staircase.

A door slid open with a groaning squeal. Beyond lay a dimly lighted cubicle, less than five meters on a side. In the middle of the cubicle rose a transparent plinth, and on the top of this plinth rested a gleaming metallic head.

Kallusin ordered the lights to brighten. The head was that of an early robot, not humaniform, somewhat cruder than Plussix. A small power supply the size of a bookfilm case sat to one side. Lodovik stepped forward and bent at the waist to examine it.

“Once, this was the influential robot companion of Daneel himself,” Kallusin said, walking around the plinth. “It is very old, and no longer functional. Its mind was burned out in the beginning times, we do not know for what reason. There are so many things kept secret by Daneel. But its memory is very nearly intact, and with care, accessible.”

“This is the head of R. Giskard Reventlov?” Lodovik asked, and again felt a curious stirring, even a vague sense of revulsion, very uncharacteristic for a robot.

“It is,” Kallusin said. “The robot who taught other robots about the dreaded Zeroth Law, and how to interfere with the minds of human beings. The beginnings of this horrible virus among robots, the urge to tamper with human history.”

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